Dietary carbohydrate restriction augments weight loss-induced improvements in glycaemic control and liver fat in individuals with type 2 diabetes: A randomised controlled trial

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Aims/hypothesis: Lifestyle modification and weight loss are cornerstones of type 2 diabetes management. However, carbohydrate restriction may have weight-independent beneficial effects on glycaemic control. This has been difficult to demonstrate because low-carbohydrate diets readily decrease body weight. We hypothesised that carbohydrate restriction enhances the beneficial metabolic effects of weight loss in type 2 diabetes.

Methods: This open-label, parallel RCT included adults with type 2 diabetes, HbA1c 48-97 mmol/mol (6.5-11%), BMI >25 kg/m2, eGFR >30 ml min-1 [1.73 m]-2 and glucose-lowering therapy restricted to metformin or dipeptidyl peptidase-4 inhibitors. Participants were randomised by a third party and assigned to 6 weeks of energy restriction (all foods were provided) aiming at ~6% weight loss with either a carbohydrate-reduced high-protein diet (CRHP, percentage of total energy intake [E%]: CH30/P30/F40) or a conventional diabetes diet (CD, E%: CH50/P17/F33). Fasting blood samples, continuous glucose monitoring and magnetic resonance spectroscopy were used to assess glycaemic control, lipid metabolism and intrahepatic fat. Change in HbA1c was the primary outcome; changes in circulating and intrahepatic triacylglycerol were secondary outcomes. Data were collected at Copenhagen University Hospital (Bispebjerg and Herlev).

Results: Seventy-two adults (CD 36, CRHP 36, all white, 38 male sex) with type 2 diabetes (mean duration 8 years, mean HbA1c 57 mmol/mol [7.4%]) and mean BMI of 33 kg/m2 were enrolled, of which 67 (CD 33, CRHP 34) completed the study. Body weight decreased by 5.8 kg (5.9%) in both groups after 6 weeks. Compared with the CD diet, the CRHP diet further reduced HbA1c (mean [95% CI] -1.9 [-3.5, -0.3] mmol/mol [-0.18 (-0.32, -0.03)%], p =  0.018) and diurnal mean glucose (mean [95% CI] -0.8 [-1.2, -0.4] mmol/l, p < 0.001), stabilised glucose excursions by reducing glucose CV (mean [95% CI] -4.1 [-5.9, -2.2]%, p < 0.001), and augmented the reductions in fasting triacylglycerol concentration (by mean [95% CI] -18 [-29, -6]%, p < 0.01) and liver fat content (by mean [95% CI] -26 [-45, 0]%, p = 0.051). However, pancreatic fat content was decreased to a lesser extent by the CRHP than the CD diet (mean [95% CI] 33 [7, 65]%, p = 0.010). Fasting glucose, insulin, HOMA2-IR and cholesterol concentrations (total, LDL and HDL) were reduced significantly and similarly by both diets.

Conclusions/interpretation: Moderate carbohydrate restriction for 6 weeks modestly improved glycaemic control, and decreased circulating and intrahepatic triacylglycerol levels beyond the effects of weight loss itself compared with a CD diet in individuals with type 2 diabetes. Concurrent differences in protein and fat intakes, and the quality of dietary macronutrients, may have contributed to these results and should be explored in future studies.

Trial registration: NCT03814694.

Funding: The study was funded by Arla Foods amba, The Danish Dairy Research Foundation, and Copenhagen University Hospital Bispebjerg Frederiksberg.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)506-517
Number of pages12
Publication statusPublished - 2022

Bibliographical note

© 2022. The Author(s), under exclusive licence to Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature.

    Research areas

  • Faculty of Science - Carbohydrate restriction, Dietary intervention, Dyslipidaemia, Glycaemic control, Low-energy diet, Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, Nutritional therapy, Obesity, Type 2 diabetes mellitus, Weight loss

ID: 289163973